How’d we get here and what do we know?


The historic prospect of a Trump-Kim meeting followed South Korea’s national security adviser visiting Washington in March, and seemed cemented after Trump tweeted in April that then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo made a clandestine visit to the secretive nation.

But two weeks ago, the budding detente was nearly scrapped when Trump sent a letter to Kim looking to cancel the summit following inflammatory rhetoric on both sides. In another twist, the summit was then officially back on after Kim sent his top deputy to personally meet with Trump at the White House.

With so much uncertainty, a senior administration official told NBC News last month that getting to the point of a summit was exhausting. “This has been like herding cats,” the official said.

What details are known about the summit?

The delegations will meet at the Capella Hotel on Singapore’s Sentosa Island, the same high-end resort where logistics for the summit were ironed out. The first meeting is expected to start at 9 a.m. local time Tuesday (9 p.m. ET Monday).

Among those expected on the U.S. side are Trump and Pompeo, now the secretary of state, as well as Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser John Bolton.

Former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who considers both Trump and Kim his friends, tweeted that he will also go to Singapore to show his support.

It’s unclear who will join Kim.

Trump said Thursday, during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, that he doesn’t need to study up before the big day.

Image: A view shows the Capella Hotel, the venue for the June 12 summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on Singapore's resort island of Sentosa
The Capella Hotel on Singapore’s resort island of Sentosa.Capella Singapore via Reuters

“I think I’m very well prepared. I don’t think I have to prepare very much,” Trump told reporters.

Kim, on the other hand, will be “well prepared,” Victor Cha, a senior adviser and the Korea chair for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told MSNBC. “He’s going to have all the trap doors laid out for the president to slip into,” he added.

What remains unknown?

Many of the details, including the overall schedule and specifics on the agenda aren’t clear, and some observers wonder if the meeting will serve as anything more than a meet-and-greet and photo-op for Trump and Kim.

But denucleariziation is a key issue, and defining how North Korea will dismantle its nuclear weapons program and agreeing on the sequence and timeline could be where talks stall.

Tony Namkung, an expert in U.S.-Asia relations who has served as a liaison between North Korea and the U.S., said the entire summit will “turn on these critical issues.”

This summit could be the first of many, he added, although another question remains about the speed of an agreement coming together and implementation.

“Are we talking about a generation or are we talking about two years?” Namkung asked.

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